EU to slash SMS and data roaming charges

Mobile operators in Europe face significant cuts to their highly profitable roaming charges following a vote by the European Parliament to support EC proposals. The new ruling could see the price of SMS roaming reduced at least threefold, roaming voice call costs cut by up to 20 per cent, and a cap on inter-operator data charges of €0.50 per megabyte of roamed data.

A long-term advocate of lower roaming charges, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said that the vote in the European Parliament was very good news for consumers all over Europe. "In view of the current economic downturn, the Parliament is right in wanting to strengthen the purchasing power of European consumers as of this summer."

While the Parliament endorsed the EC's proposals, it imposed lower charges for data roaming (stating that €0.50 per megabyte was preferable over the proposed cap of €1 per megabyte), and approved greater transparency of roaming charges to eliminate the risk of "bill shocks" for data roaming.

Having imposed a cap in SMS roaming charges at €0.11 per message--as against the region average of €0.28 and as high as €0.80 in some countries--the EU also voted to force operators to charge roamed voice calls by the second, from the first second of the call. The Commission claims consumers currently pay around 20 per cent too much for calls abroad because of imprecise billing methods.

However, these changes need final approval by a majority of the 785 members of the European Parliament at their plenary session scheduled for late April. If voted through, which Reding has asked for prior to the Parliamentary elections in June, the new roaming rules would come into effect on 1 July this year. 

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